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Smuggled tapes expose Castro’s luxurious lifestyle

Los Angeles, Nov. 20: The life of luxury of Fidel Castro has been revealed in home videotapes smuggled out of Cuba by a former girlfriend of one of his sons.

The videos, which show the Communist leader preparing for a sumptuous banquet and lounging on leather sofas in his villa in Havana, give the first peek into the residence which most Cubans have never seen.

State media are banned from reporting on his family or homes in the family compound because of Castro’s fear of assassination.

Only his eldest son, Fidel Jr, has appeared at his side and has a government job. It is not even known how many children he has, though it is believed there are seven, including two with his mistresses.

The tapes, segments of which were broadcast for the first time on the Californian Spanish-language channel Univision on Monday night, were taken from the island by Dashiell Torralba, who had a two-year relationship with Castro’s son Antonio, an orthopaedic surgeon.

The 27-year-old, who is now in hiding in an undisclosed Latin American country, told the channel she stole the videos as revenge on the 76-year-old dictator’s wife, Dalia.

Torralba claims that Dalia Castro broke up the two-year romance because she is the niece of Diocles Torralba, a former transport minister imprisoned in 1998 on corruption charges.

The tapes last a total of 40 minutes and are believed to have been mainly shot by Castro’s adult children. The series, titled The Secret life of Fidel Castro, depicts his main residential compound, Punto Cero, or Point Zero, in western Havana.

Monday’s episode showed Castro dressed casually before a banquet, inspecting the elaborate dinnerware on the dinner table, his grandchildren playing with relatives and Antonio zooming along the patio on an electric scooter.

It pictures the spacious compound and carefully landscaped garden and reveals that many of the family are wearing designer clothes. The house is decorated with wooden chests and Cuban handicrafts. A large-screen television monitors foreign news channels.

Sergio Gatria, of the Cuban Information Centre, an anti-Castro organisation of exiles, said the tapes confirmed that the Cuban dictator lived the life of a millionaire despite the poverty of many of the island’s citizens.

The Castro regime has not commented on the tapes but Univision is convinced of their authenticity. “It can’t be a fake,” said a spokesman for the Los Angeles-based channel. “There are too many recognisable people.”

Cuban spy

The former wife of a Cuban spy asked a court to give her the Cuban plane that brought eight migrants to Florida last week, as partial payment for a judgment she won against the Communist island’s government, her lawyer said yesterday.

A Cuban pilot flew the Soviet-made Antonov-2 crop-duster to Key West on November 11 after picking up seven relatives at an airfield in western Cuba.

US aviation officials called it a defection. Cuba called it air piracy and demanded the return of the government-owned plane and its occupants. US immigration officials released them in Miami four days later.

The plane is still sitting at the Key West airport in US government custody and guarded by Monroe County Sheriff's deputies.

On Monday, lawyers for Ana Margarita Martinez filed a writ in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, asking the sheriff's department to seize the plane, auction it and award Martinez the proceeds.

The Miami woman won a $27 million judgment against the Cuban government last year. After her husband, Juan Pablo Roque, fled to Cuba in 1996, she learned he was a Cuban agent sent to infiltrate Miami’s Cuban exile community.

She sued for civil damages, saying their 11-month marriage was part of a deception that Roque carried out under Cuban government orders and that every time they had sex, it constituted rape. Cuba failed to respond to the lawsuit and Martinez won by default. The judge ordered the Cuban government to pay her $7 million in compensation for pain and suffering and $20 million in punitive damages.

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